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Buenas noches State of Hockey legion, and a Happy Virgin of Guadalupe Day to all of the Wild fans south of the border in Mexico. I don't need to remind you that Our Lady of Guadalupe is a Catholic icon of the Virgin Mary who appeared on the cloak of Juan Diego, a peasant, on the hills of Tepeyac on this very day in 1531. Ironically, until last night, that was the last time the Minnesota Wild won a game in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Tonight, the boys are in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada to close out this five-game roadie against the hated Vancouver Canucks.
Tonight, I'll be coming to you live from the safety of my living room in Como Park with my trusty sidekick, Ivy. I don't know if you'll recall this, but the last time the Wild was in Vancouver, I was with the team. The team lost every game on that trip, and to make matters worse, there was a sea monster out in the harbor just outside my hotel room window. No way was I going to go anywhere near that creature again. I'll take a quiet Saturday night with the dog, thank you very much.
As you may or may not know, the Wild can overtake two teams in the Northwest Division tonight with a win, including these very Canucks. So there won't be any pussyfooting around in this second game of back-to-backs. That means Josh Harding
is going to get the start in goal tonight. The Southpaw keeper has won two in a row, and to generate some buzz, I'm going to say that he guaranteed victory tonight (he didn't, but I'm trying to get him on SportsCenter tonight).
The only bad part about last night's thriller is that the Wild lost Owen Nolan to a lower body injury. He'll miss tonight's game and join Andrew Ebbett, Pierre-Marc Bouchard
, Brent Burns and Petr Sykora on the shelf. Those four are concussed. Nathan Smith will get back into the lineup, and John Scott will be the lone healthy scratch.
Although they are probably quite stinky by now, the Wild will wear the road whites for the fifth time in seven days. The Canucks are donning the home blues trimmed in green and white with the C-shaped Killer Whale on the chest.
I know it's late, and it's the weekend, but come on. Do you really want to be inside a crowded night club or making conversation with some stranger at a Holiday party and learning about how great their kids are in school? No, you don't. You wouldn't want to be anywhere but in front of your computer on a night like this, so for that, I thank you. Let's get down to brass tacks. It's game time in B.C.Period 1
18:47 - It appears the Canucks are well aware that the Wild played a tough game last night. They are all over the boys in white early on. After Ryan Kesler makes a nice move go get in on Harding, Mikael Samuelsson has a partial break and beats Harding, but loses control of the puck. The Canucks would have had a two-on-oh, but Guillame Latendresse hauls down Mason Raymond and takes a penalty. 18:16 - MIN 0 - VAN 1 - We've seen this early deficit before. No stranger to being down 1-0, the Wild will have to mount a comeback at some point tonight. On the power play, red hot Daniel Sedin has way too much space on the right side of the zone. He skates in and picks a spot in the top shelf, and he just isn't missing those right now. He buries it over Harding's shoulder for his seventh of the year and gives the Nucks an early lead.
14:57 - This makes a lot of sense. After the whistle, and right in front of the refs, Darcy Hordichuk punches Derek Boogaard in the face not once, not twice but three times. I don't know about you, but if I get punched in the face three times, I think I would respond in some manner similar to Boogey, who just delivers one punch back to Hordichuk. Naturally, Boogaard will the only player going to the box.13:44 - MIN 0 - VAN 2 - Two Vancouver power plays, and two goals. Thanks to some questionable officiating, the Canucks tack on another. The other red hot Sedin, Henrik, skates behind Harding's cage, and just makes a nifty pass to the side of the net from whence he came. That's where former UMD Bulldog Mason Raymond is camped and he puts a quick shot underneath Harding. Speaking of the Dogs, they just polished off a 6-3 pasting of #2 ranked Denver. That's nothing to sneeze at.
11:08 - Man, I do not like the Canucks. As he chases a puck behind the Vancouver net, James Sheppard is drilled from behind by Mathieu Schneider and he goes face first into the glass. He is slow to get up, and he's not happy about it. The Wild will get a power play, and amazingly Sheppard won't be getting a penalty for casting an angry stare at Schneidter.
10:03 - On the power play, the Wild gets its first scoring chance. Andrew Brunette finds Antti Miettinen open in the slot. He glides in and fires a missile, but Roberto Luongo makes a spectacular glove save to rob Mittens. Number 20 has had a tough 24 hours after getting repeatedly denied by Miikka Kiprusoff last night on some glorious scoring chances.
7:14 - The Wild is coming alive, and Martin Havlat continues to provide a major spark. Andrew Brunette sends a home run pass and hits Havlat behind the Vancouver defense, He races in with Willie Mitchell bothering him from behind, and he tries to lift a backhand, but Luongo gets his shoulder on it and keeps the Wild off the board.6:05 - MIN 1 - VAN 2 - Can we now say that Havlat has officially arrived in Minnesota? Leading a three-on-one by skating up the left side, Havlat makes a brilliant play. He waits out the sliding Vancouver defender and starts to skate the puck around the Canuck net. Luongo moves over to cover the opposite side, but Havlat zips a pass back to a waiting Shane Hnidy, and the Sherrif buries it for his first goal in a Wild sweater. That leaves Derek Boogaard as the only Wild player who has played at least 10 games this season, and not scored a goal.
3:15 - MIN 1 - VAN 3 - This one was just inevitable. The Wild's fourth line is stuck in their own zone against the Sedins and Alexandre Burrows. Nobody can get the puck long enough to clear, and the Canucks finally zip the puck around until it ends up on Burrows' stick in the left circle. He roofs a shot that beats Harding, and I don't know if there's a worse feeling than watching Burrows celebrate a goal against the Wild.
0:04.9 - MIN 2 - VAN 3 - Are you kidding me? The Wild won't go away thanks to offensive superstars like Hnidy, and now, Greg Zanon. Once again, it's Marty Havlat getting something going. He just floats a backhand up high on Luongo, who for some reason, acts as if its a hand grenade. He can't control, and Zanon follows the play and whacks it in out of midair. That's just a goal scorer's goal.
0:00 - A crazy first period comes to a close with the Wild trailing by a goal. They'll need to shore up some defensive issues, but with the way this team is playing right now, a one-goal deficit is but a flesh wound.Period 2
18:38 - Wild dodges a bullet as Jannik Hansen enters the Wild zone on an odd-man rush, and he sends a pass to a streaking Ryan Johnson who has an open net but he completely misses wide.
16:05 - Harding has been scrambling a lot tonight, but he comes up big here as the Canucks work the puck around and get it to Mitchell at the point. He winds and fires and Harding has to make a sprawling blocker stop on this one and the puck sails out of play.
11:30 - It's almost as if Daniel and Henrik Sedin have been playing together their whole lives and know where the other is at all times. One of them dishes to the other, who dishes back to the other, who drops it back, and boom! A shot from one of the Sedins hits the post.
9:42 - Boogaard gets called for diving after Kevin Bieksa steps into his lane as he races after the puck in the Canuck corner. How you call a dive on a guy that's 6-foot-7 and not the most agile skater is beyond me, but there have been several head scratchers tonight. I'll give the zebras credit for one thing: at least they didn't send both to the box. They thought Boogey dove, so they sent him to the box. That's how it should be.
7:17 - Marek Zidlicky has been making things happen recently, and he nearly gets this thing tied up. As he did last night, he jumps up on the rush and hits a wide open Andrew Brunette cruising down the slot. Bruno, playing in his 900th game, tries to make the same move he made to beat Colorado in Game Seven, but he's hooked by Raymond. Zidlicky follows the play and puts the rebound back on the goal, but somehow the puck ends up underneath Luongo who is laying on his back at the side of the net.
4:07 - This period has belonged to Minnesota, yet they can't squeeze one past Bobby Lou. Kyle Brodziak
makes a nifty pass to Cal Clutterbuck
in front, but Clutter can't get solid wood on the shot and Luongo turns it aside.
0:42.4 - Koivu and Bieksa have been battling each other all night long. Every chance they get, they are throwing elbows and sticks at each other. Those are two intense competitors right there. Period 3
18:32 - Wild apprentice extraordinairre Carly Peters informs me that Eric Belanger has won 11 of 11 faceoffs tonight. That's a healthy percentage.
14:51 - Yet another questionable call goes against the road team. Havlat is trying to go after a big rebound, and his stick gets lifted from behind by Jannik Hansen, and the stick comes up and hits Hansen in the face. You guessed it, Havlat is going off for a high stick and Todd Richards is actually laughing on the bench at how bad some of these calls have been.
14:41 - Oh my! Zanon nearly takes a screaming slap shot to the face, but it actually catches him in the shoulder and knocks him down on the ice. He gets up quickly and heads to the bench, and he looks to be fine.13:16 - MIN 2 - VAN 4 - Two horrendous calls tonight have helped lead to two Canuck goals. Here, Kesler gets the puck at the top of the right circle and he fires a wrister that beats Harding up high again. Harding has been susceptible to that high shot tonight, but this one he never even sees as he's got three bodies directly in front of him to block his vision.
8:21 - Latendresse crushes Christian Ehrhoff upgainst the boards in the Vancouver zone.
5:38 - Now it's Clutter's turn. He blasts Burrows into the boards. That makes me smile despite the score.
1:34 - Harding heads off for the extra attacker. 1:06 - MIN 3 - VAN 4 - It's not over yet, folks. It's Havlat again working his magic with quick passes and bursts of speed. After doing a great job of holding the zone, Havlat streaks inside the zone, dishes down low to Bruno, and then goes to the net and buries Brunette's comebacker. What a game for Havlat.
0:29.6 - The Wild just throws every shot they can at the net but Luongo somehow keeps it out as the puck bounces everywhere except over the goal line. Minnesota now has 40 shots on goal for the second straight night.
0:00 - The Wild just can't find the magic at the end of this one, but the Wild plays valiantly and goes home with a winning road trip at 3-2-0.